Washington — The congressional page scandal involving the Republican-run House's handling of former Rep. Mark Foley will make it more difficult for the GOP to maintain control of Congress in November, Republicans acknowledged Sunday, insisting that anyone responsible for covering up the scandal must be held accountable.
The scandal already has spilled into a congressional district far from the Florida home of the disgraced former congressman who resigned amid news reports of his sexually explicit communications with a House page.
Rep. Tom Reynolds, the New York Republican who serves as chairman of his party's congressional campaigns and maintains that he alerted House Speaker Dennis Hastert about "overly friendly" e-mails that Foley had sent to a page months ago, faces a tough re-election fight back home, according to a new poll. Reynolds is personally defending his role in the matter with a television ad.
Hastert maintains that he did not learn of Foley's behavior until news of sexually explicit e-mails with a page forced Foley to resign on Sept. 29.
Republicans, while cautioning that "30 days is an eternity" in the congressional campaigns leading to Election Day on Nov. 7, acknowledge that the scandal makes it difficult to make their own messages heard.
"There is a little window of opportunity (to regain control of the campaign), but it is closing in on us fast," said Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., appearing Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." "This is going to be the most difficult 30 days in the last 12 years that we've been the majority party.
"It's certainly not helpful," Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said. "Thirty days is an eternity in politics. ... But this adds to a very difficult atmosphere for Republican candidates going into the last 30 days, where it's difficult to get what I call oxygen for the (party's own) message."
A new Newsweek poll has found that 52 percent of Americans surveyed believe the speaker knew of the problem and attempted to cover it up. A Time magazine poll earlier in the week found that two-thirds of those who know of the scandal suspect a cover-up. Both found 80 percent of Americans aware of the scandal - though 65 percent of those surveyed by Newsweek said it won't make much difference in their votes.
The scandal has added a volatile new issue to the campaign for control of Congress, a contest framed on Sunday in the appearances of Emanuel and Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., on "This Week."
"When you guys came to power in 1994, you said you were going to change Washington - Washington changed you," Emanuel told Putnam. "You promised to clean up this swamp, and you have created a deeper set of swamps. ... In this election ... Americans do not want to stay the course you set for this country. They want a change."